Feeling down, looking up

Pascale Zissu

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I have always been a sensitive person, but around November of 2017, for reasons I couldn’t explain, I began feeling sad on most days rather than once in a while after a specific event upset me. My friendships with my best friends from middle school had been dissolving for some time beforehand, but things got worse as time progressed. In the first week of October, I got pneumonia and missed an entire week of school, which put me behind in my school work and with my friends. I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work I had missed, and the time away from my friends made me feel more left out than I was before. I have always been a hard worker and loved school, but I began to put too much pressure on myself, and I didn’t like school anymore. I started feeling sick on Sunday nights because I was nervous about the week of school ahead, and every morning I was very anxious. Between this pressure and getting used to social changes, my feelings were valid, but I was embarrassed because I believed my feeling depressed was abnormal and that I was alone.

It was clear to my family that I was feeling down, so I opened up to my mom and she suggested that I visit the counseling and guidance office. I began going there once a week to talk about ways to make myself less anxious about school and dealing with rough times with my friends. While this was very helpful, my sadness and anxiety did not get much better after a few months, so I began going to therapy outside of school. This is the best decision I have ever made. My life did not immediately transform, nor is it perfect almost a year later. I still have difficult days, but I have made tremendous progress and I am overall much happier and calmer now.

My mom is a psychologist and my grandmother and step-grandfather are both psycho-analysts, so I have grown up aware that mental health is a normal and real issue. Unfortunately, even though cognitive well-being is just as important as any other health matter, there is a stigma surrounding mental health that it is not a real issue and not important, and that struggling with it makes you “weak” or “lame.” In my experience, my entire family and most of my friends have been very supportive. I know that not everyone is as fortunate, which can make it hard for people to open up about their feelings, but telling my family how I felt let me get the help I needed, which was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Even though speaking up may be uncomfortable and scary, it is beyond worth it.